REVIEW: Snow Queen gets a warm reception and magics away the January blues
As the band began to play and the fake snow began to fall, you’d be forgiven for thinking Christmas had come again.
But since January has had little to offer in terms of merriment, the festive cheer was welcomed by an appreciative audience who settled down to enjoy Spittal Variety Group’s The Snow Queen.
SVG have been bringing us pantos for decades and this one had all the trimmings: the dizzy dame; the hopeless sidekicks; goodies to cheer and baddies to boo; fantastic costumes and lots of audience participation.
What stood out this year was the quality of the vocals, especially from the lead players who capably took on big show numbers such as This Is Me from The Greatest Showman and re-worked versions of classic hits from Queen, The Beatles and Adele.
She told us from the start that she was the star (her name was on the poster after all) and Diane Renner proved it; expertly playing the evil Snow Queen and showing off her strong singing voice in several big solos including the chilling ‘Snowfall’ to the tune of Skyfall.
The ‘children,’ Gerder and Kai (Hannah Bass and Laura Stawarz), impressed too, with their Million Dreams duet a particular highlight. Hannah played the part of sweet but brave heroine perfectly and Laura skilfully took on the principal boy role as she followed the queen to her ice palace, joining her in a rendition of Take That’s Rule the World.
But panto isn’t panto without cross-dressing galore and cringe-worthy jokes and there was plenty of that too.
Making his debut as the group’s dame, following the retirement of SVG stalwart John Dougall, was Jonathan Scott – and he made it look easy. His silly banter with the audience and natural warmth meant he could soon cast off his ‘L’ plates. He even made fluffing his lines look like part of the script.
His partner in comedy crime was dippy grandson Helmut, played by Morgan Flannigan who has spent rather a lot of his young life on The Maltings stage and who never disappoints, whatever the genre. The two of them had great chemistry and entertained us with their witty wordplay, one-liners and flossing.
There were some brilliant supporting roles and many of the strong chorus stepped forward to join in with the banter.
Good fairy Snowdrop (Denise Clarke) spoke almost entirely in rhyme in her crisp voice which ensured we kept up with events while Murray Mackay took over the narration from time to time as he portrayed the famous storyteller Hans Christian Anderson.
Jennifer Greenwood and Keith Fraser were hilarious as the spaced out Sunbeam and Ziggy who led their bell-bottomed buddies is a chorus of All You Need Is Love. Lee Robson was suitably wicked as Henrik, cow-towing to ‘Her Frostiness’ with his terrible trolls.
Bandit Fredrika (Georgia Young) turned out to be a poor robber but great at singing and dancing (along with her chief Aimee Southwood), as she joined the rescue party. Then there was the mysterious Caw (Nicola Hastie), a helpful crow, who had the audience in stitches and whimsical Blossom (Fiona Dunn), who spoke exclusively in flower puns. Sharon Young, as Rufus the Reindeer, also stood out as an experienced performer.
It was all really rather silly for a January evening (and a school night) but by the end we were challenging each other to a Rufus the Reindeer song-a-thon and loving it. Who says Christmas comes but once a year?